I find myself in my old neighborhood, in front of the old house
January 18, 2007
As the plane makes its approach toward Mehrabad I realize I have no feelings what so ever, at least not on a conscious level. There's nobody waiting for me here, nobody I want to see.
Tehran smells of petroleum and earth, dry earth.
It's early in the morning and as the taxi drives me to my destination, I look at the empty streets and read the store signs and billboards. Sweepers in their Gitmo-colored uniforms spread the street dust into the air with their long brooms.
The driver looks tired. Fortunately he is quiet too. No curiosity as to where I'm coming from, and how long I've been there, or other bullshit like that. Thank God.
It's six in the morning and I'm all wired. I sit at the edge of the bed and contemplate my toes. I can't sleep now. Even if I could, it'd totally throw my routine out of whack. How about a shower?
The water smells like earth too, and the pressure: hardly a trickle oozes out of the shower-head and the temperature fluctuates. I use the soap in the dish and now, I'm all rose-watery!
There's a car here. A brand new something parked in the subterranean garage all ready for my use, but I have nowhere to go, really.
I head out anyway, driving aimlessly around the city. It's mid-morning. Streets have crowded up. The sun shines through the smog and the snow-covered tips of the mountains to the north are visible: they're so close too.
I find myself in my old neighborhood, in front of the old house. I try not to let the repressed memories surface. It's better this way; aloof, detached, numb.
I walk the alley that I'd walked ten thousand times in my childhood. The trees are all there; fully grown and mature. The houses are mostly gone, replaced with multi-story buildings. But our house still stands. I wonder who lives here. Will they let me in if I buzz? Will they honor my long-lost claim to this piece of earth?
Here in the narrow street is where we kicked the striped plastic ball, bounced it off the curb and tried to score goals through two pieces of stone on the pavement. I was so lousy at it. Always picked last and with disdain, but the experience was worth the temporary let downs. After the game, we'd rush to the little neighborhood store for colas, eying the bottle after every sip to see how much was left.
Now I am in front of the house with the green door, two streets away from my old house. This is where she lived. I used to snatch my father's car in the hot summer afternoons, light up the cigarette I stole from his coat pocket and drive here to maybe catch a glimpse of her. Seems like a thousand centuries ago. Will this ever die?
I know nobody here and nobody knows me, but I speak the language.
The night before I leave the city, jet-lag and insomnia keep me up until dawn. It's early Friday morning and a good time to visit the graveyard. The unfamiliar expressway on the east side of the city takes me south to the familiar shrine. The air is fresh and moist with the morning dew. I struggle to find the room housing the graves of my kin. The old custodian is incoherent and murmurs from under his thick mustache. He talks about his recent prostate surgery and doesn't know where my graves are. A woman tells me that I may pray for the departed from a distance. Just send it their way, she says.
On the way out the gate I turn and bow to the edifice, then walk the narrow street, lined on both sides with gravestone carvers. The morning is still young. Comment